coronavirus

Families of COVID Victims Struggle With Additional Burden: Navigating Finances in COVID World

A COVID bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom includes employer-paid funeral expenses, payment to dependents and a weekly stipend for victims' children until they turn 18.

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Lupita Hernandez Ramos' husband died from COVID complications on Jan. 1.

"We didn't think that it would affect us to this extent," she said with a sigh. "And yet it did."

Her husband, Cesar Ramos, left her and their four kids behind.

"My husband had no pre-existing conditions, 37 year old, healthy man," she said. "And now we're left with the struggle of finances and it's not something you should have to go through alone."

Matt Mora, a legal analyst for an LA law firm, is helping families navigate the post-COVID world of a lost loved one.

"I can't tell you how many times I'm scrolling Facebook and Instagram and people posting gofundme campaigns trying to raise money to bury the person and then try to make ends meet.

"People just have no idea."

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He's referring to a California law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in September, expanding workers compensation benefits to victims of COVID.

It offers up to $320,000 for dependents, up to $10,000 for burial expenses and potentially 2/3 of the victim's weekly salary paid to their minor children until they turn 18.

"It's very much in favor of the deceased, the family, the injured worker," Mora said.

Mora said the law puts the burden of proof on the employer, meaning if a victim of COVID worked within 14 days of their diagnosis, it's presumed they got sick on the job unless the employer can prove otherwise.

Rosa Mejia said her husband was the sole provider to pay rent and all the bills. Gilberto Mejia worked as a painter for an auto body company when she says he came home with COVID.

He brought the virus home, she said through a translator, and infected the whole family. He died in December.

"His employer didn't mention it," Hernandez Ramos said. "I didn't have any of that information when I last spoke with them."

Her husband worked for a medical supply company and his widow says no one explained the benefits until she started asking questions.

"You don't expect it to hit your household," she said.

The state law has a one-year statute of limitations, though, meaning families have until one year from the time of death to file any claim.

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